47 years ago, Brian de Palma directed Carrie, Stephen King’s bone-chilling first novel, and moviemaking was never the same. Since that time, more than 50 directors have adapted the king’s books in 80 films and series. And rightly so. The man is considered the master of horror, after all. Still, that 50/80 feat makes Stephen King the most adapted living author in the entire world.
All that makes for a fitting documentary, and Daphné Baiwir (Deauville and the American Dream) was eager to spotlight the icon in King on Screen, a compelling new documentary that unpacks the man, the horror he brought to the screen, and the unique talent that never faded.
The outing features insights from King collaborators and enthusiasts Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption), Mick Garris (The Stand miniseries), Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep), Tom Holland (The Langoliers, Chucky), Vincenzo Natali (Cube), Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead), Mark L. Lester (Firestarter), Dee Wallace (Critters, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), Tim Curry (Pennywise in 1990’s It), Taylor Hackford (Dolores Claiborne, Ray), and James Caan (Misery).
Daphné Baiwir shared more about Stephen King and capturing his essence in this film in this exclusive MovieWeb interview.
For the Love of Stephen King
It’s no surprise that filmmakers never really stop adapting King’s material, and we see exactly why in this new documentary. King on Screen is a visual feast, offering a nice mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the King canon. In an ambitious move, it reunites the filmmakers who have adapted King’s books for movies and television.
“Stephen King has been adapted for so many years, and I thought it was interesting to have the directors’ point of view, because it was something that wasn’t really seen in documentaries about King in general,” Daphné Baiwir shared. “They are not focused so much about the adaptations. And today, with so many adaptations being released, I thought it would be great to have a documentary that spoke directly with the directors.”
There are a lot of them tossed into the mix here. Frank Darabont’s thoughts stand out, and it’s fun to get a reminder of how many films Dee Wallace starred in. Hi there, CujoI! Everybody might have a different answer as to why the mass populace is fascinated with Stephen King, but Baiwir keeps it simple.
“I think it’s the way he’s able to make us think about ourselves as human beings,” she said. “Because when you are reading Stephen King books, you can see that a lot of the characters are unperfect and complex. And it’s something that is quite interesting, because not all characters are great people. And then when you dig a little bit, you see a lot of layers.”
Bring in the Directors
Reuniting some of TV and film’s most iconic directors must have been a thrill. For Baiwir, it was downright educational. “It’s always fascinating, because when you talk to directors like that, you always have the feeling that you’ve entered a private master class. It’s remarkable to see their process during a film — and it’s a very long process. You have to work on the script, and then everything that goes after. It’s a lot of thinking.”
She went on to say that hearing what these standout directors had to say about a film they made 10 to 20 years ago was as mesmerizing as it was mind-bending. In an interesting twist, audiences will make note of how this documentary unearths information about the film Carrie, which seemed to really start it all, in terms of the types of horror films that hit the screen.
“Talking about female characters is very interesting,” Baiwir noted, and said:
“I’d be digging in a little bit into King’s female characters and realized that he himself was inspired by a lot of women who were present for him, like his wife, Tabitha. It’s interesting because it reflects on Carrie for sure, but it also reflects on the other books he wrote, like, even a few years ago when he wrote Sleeping Beauties with his son [Owen King].”
When asked what the most challenging part was in creating King On Screen, the director pointed out the structure of the film. “There are like 80 King adaptations, so we really wanted to talk to these directors about different topics that are in Stephen King’s work, in general. I wanted to see how they soaked up his material into their film, and how they integrated different topics, too. It was an interesting journey. I mean, even for me to see all those directors trying to analyze their work, and how they interpreted themselves and Stephen King’s work… that was fascinating.”
Whether your favorite Stephen King adaptation is The Shining, It, Salem’s Lot, Children of the Corn, or something else, be sure to catch King on Screen, which hits theaters, Aug. 11 and is available on demand and Blu-Ray Sept. 8,